Sikorsky has received a $542m production contract from the US Navy to build six VH-92A presidential helicopters.

Procurement of the six helicopters is part of the programme of record for the US Marine Corps to purchase 23 aircraft.

In addition, the contract for the presidential helicopter replacement programme comprises spares and training support.

The contract represents the beginning of the programme’s first low-rate initial production (LRIP) lot.

Under the contract, Sikorsky will begin deliveries of six VH-92A helicopters in 2021.

The company will deliver the remaining production aircraft in 2022 and 2023.

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Last month, the US Navy made an affirmative Milestone C decision to progress the development programme into the production phase.

US Marine Corps aviation deputy commandant lieutenant general Steven Rudder said: “The presidential lift mission is a no-fail mission for the Marine Corps.

“We deliver helicopter and MV-22 transportation across the globe to support the requirements of the Presidency. The authorisation to move forward with procurement of the VH-92A will allow the Marine Corps to deliver the next generation of Presidential Helicopter support.”

The VH-92A aircraft will replace the existing presidential helicopters, VH-3D and VH-60N, which entered service more than 40 years ago.

The new helicopter will deliver improved performance and accommodate increased payload.

In addition, the VH-92A will be incorporated with enhanced crew coordination systems and communications capabilities.

The aircraft will undergo testing to validate system performance. The initial operational test and evaluation process is due to take place in mid-2020.

The navy expects the VH-92A helicopter to achieve initial operational capability by the end of next year.

Sikorsky is a business unit of Lockheed Martin. It won a contract in 2014 from the US Navy for the presidential helicopter programme.